Teenagers can be weaned off junk food by rebelling against companies

Teenagers can be weaned off junk food by appealing to their rebellious nature and urging them to fight back against large corporations

  • Study showed youngsters will quit eating burgers if it makes them feel rebellious
  • Knowing food companies spend billions on marketing also helps to put them off
  • Over three months, teenage boys cut their junk food intake by almost a third 

Tearaway teenagers may drive parents to distraction at mealtimes with their refusal to eat healthily.

But convincing youngsters to shun junk food may be as simple as exploiting their natural tendency to rebel.

A group of 13 and 14-year-old students were shown a news story which claimed adults who controlled large food corporations spent billions on marketing to coerce them into eating fatty foods, The Times reported.

Teenagers can be put off scoffing junk food by encouraging them to rebel against large corporations [File photo]

Teens hit back against this ‘manipulation’ – and their canteen choices improved significantly. The biggest effects were in boys, who cut purchases of unhealthy food by roughly a third.

Christopher Bryan, of Chicago University, said: ‘Food marketing is deliberately designed to create positive emotional associations with junk food.

‘What we’ve done is turn that around by exposing their manipulation to teenagers, triggering their natural strong aversion to being controlled by adults.’

The study of 350 pupils at a school in Texas was published in journal Nature Human Behaviour.

The teenagers’ food habits were analysed for three months.

The most pronounced effects were seen among boys, who cut their purchases of unhealthy treatments by roughly a third.

‘This brief, inexpensive and easily scalable intervention appears to provide lasting protection against the enticing power of junk food marketing and to change eating habits’, the research said.

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